I’m sitting in a coffee shop, headphones in, listening to the greatest song the world.
That song is, of course, Splendid Isolation by Warren Zevon.
I shouldn’t like the song as a much as I do. I’m an extrovert! I like people. I power up by interacting with people. So why does a song about telling the world to bugger off speak to me so?
“I want to live all alone in the desert / I want to be like Georgia O’Keefe / I want to live on the Upper East Side / and never go down in the street.”
Probably because I do dream, at times, of running away to live alone in the desert. It would be so nice to be able to concentrate, to create something, to make art, without people bothering me. Even extroverts need to be alone sometimes.
“Splendid isolation / I don’t need no one / splendid isolation…”
It’s so conflicted, too. I mean, you can hear how much he knows what’s saying isn’t true, even at the same time that it is true. Life has no simple answers. Warren knew that. And as much as I love his other work, he doesn’t sing anything else with as much raw honesty as this.
“Michael Jackson in Disneyland / Don’t have to share it with nobody else / Lock the gates Goofy, take my hand / And lead me through the world of self.”
What the heck does that even mean?!? Metaphorically, of course. I don’t know. But I love the image of Michael Jackson in his Bad costume walking hand in hand with a Disney cast member in a Goofy suit as the gates of Disneyland swing close.
“Don’t want to wake up with no one beside me / Don’t want to take up with nobody new / Don’t want nobody coming ‘round without calling first / Don’t want nothing to do with you.”
And how is a song that’s just four repeated chords so musically interesting? Ok, there’s a bridge, but other than that it’s dead simple. I’ve listened to this song on repeat eight times in a row now, and I’m not even close to sick of it. Genius? Yes! And how can you not love a song with a harmonica solo? Who cares about more cowbell? I’ve got a fever, and the only cure is more harmonica!
“I’m putting tinfoil up on the windows / Lying down in the dark to dream / I don’t want to see their faces / I don’t to hear them scream.”
By the time I get to this point in the song, I don’t care if there’s a zombie apocalypse outside. Just leave me alone with my dreams.
“Paulie, I want you to wax rhapsodic. To gush. To write with your emotion first and with your brain not at all. Think of something that you like then stop thinking and start writing and be frivolous in your writing style. I require at least three exclamation points. Silliness in an entirely uncalculated form, but totally sincere.”